Helping Our Children Handle Big Feelings
Sometimes it is hard to see that our children are indeed little human beings, essentially miniature versions of us. So it happens that when they exhibit “adult” feelings and thoughts, we don’t know how to react and therefore handle the situation incorrectly.
Why do we assume that only adults can feel certain disappointment and anger? And that kids don’t have the right to feel those emotions? If a plan is cancelled to some unforeseen event, we wonder why the kids can’t be patient enough to bear these hardships. What about us? If one of our plans goes kaput, how do we react? And do we think that our disappointment holds validity, and a child’s does not?
First we must realize that emotions and feelings have a place in every person. According to Islamic teachings, there is nothing wrong with “anger.” It’s just how we control our anger. We have all heard the story of when Imam Ali (as) was at war and one of the enemies sat on his chest and spit in his face. Before striking him, Imam Ali (as) made sure that his anger at the man was not focused on the fact that he spit on him, and rather that he was the enemy of God.
Children can have big feelings–and it is healthy and normal. The way we can help them navigate life is by assuring they know how to control those emotions and feelings.
Here are a few tips at helping kids handle these big feelings
- Labeling emotions: If a child is angry or sad, frustrated or nervous, we should help them understand what they are feeling. For example, you could say: “I know you are sad that we couldn’t go to the zoo today…” or “I know what your sister said made you feel angry…” This helps the child know that their feelings are being validated.
- Healthy release of emotions: Instead of just pushing the feelings away, help kids find a release. Let them know it’s okay to feel sad/angry/frustrated/ but that throwing tantrums, screaming, fighting, will not solve anything. Deep breaths, drawing a picture, talking about it, prayer, listening to Qur’an, etc. are great ways to redirect the child. Essentially the child is learning that their feelings have a place, but acting on them inappropriately could lead to bigger consequences.
- Self-reflection: A big part of how we raise our children to handle life comes directly from us, the parents. How do we react to life’s ups and downs? Do we scream and throw a fit? Do we exhibit road rage? Are we patient? If we aren’t exhibiting the behavior we want our children to copy, it’s a good time to change our ways too.
Whether we like to admit it or not, our kids are looking at us to guide them. How we take on life’s challenges will set the parameters for how our children will address the same issues in their own lives. When children are younger lectures don’t help, and instead they observe and imitate.
Helping our kids deal with big feelings and emotions is a good way for us to take a look at ourselves. And why not make it a family affair? Parents can even communicate with their children that families help each other and look out for one another. If we see that one of us are getting cornered by Shaytan, we can give gentle reminders to ask Allah for help and protection from Shaytan’s evil whisperings.
Raising children does not need to always be a power struggle. As parents we instill in our children that we have the rights to be in charge of them, but this does not mean that there is no room for discussion or communication. If we can show our kids that just as discipline, rules, expectations are essential to a healthy family, so are love, compassion, generosity and kindness, then they will also learn to take both hand in hand.
Editor’s note: Islamic Insights is honored to host the “Raising Faith” column by esteemed guest contributor and student from Qum, Sister Samira Rizvi. Besides being a former newspaper copy editor, Rizvi is a mother of three, an author who writes for Little Muslim Books, and maintains a personal blog. Her column will focus on her experiences in tarbiyat—the upbringing of children based on Islamic values. For past articles in the column see here.